For the past decade and a half, dozens of left-wing Israeli activists have come together to accompany Palestinians to their groves during the olive harvest. Despite recurring settler violence, the situation has improved over the years.
It had become like the opening ceremony of the olive harvest season: last Wednesday, Israeli settlers uprooted 40 olive trees in Turmusaya, a small Palestinian village north of Ramallah. Palestinian farmers face settler violence throughout the year, but it is during the olive harvest that the attacks increase dramatically.
For the past 16 years, a group of left-wing organizations have banded together to try and stop the attacks. The Harvest Coalition, made up of groups such as Ta’ayush, Rabbis for Human Rights, Coalition of Women for Peace, and Combatants for Peace, among others, has enlisted Israeli volunteers to join Palestinian farmers in areas that are more prone to violence. The very presence of Israeli activists can provide the farmers with the bare minimum of protection in the occupied territories.
The coalition was formed in 2002 by 82-year-old Yaakov Manor, a veteran Israeli human rights activist.
“I first heard about the problem of settlers attacking Palestinian farmers in the 90s,” says Manor. “I was in charge of Peace Now’s dialogue committee, and traveled to many villages. One time I received a phone call from friends in Nablus who said, ‘We have a big problem in Burin, they won’t let them harvest.’ So we decided to join them. I did not understand the severity of the issue at the time; none of us did, since in those years Palestinians did not speak much about these kinds of attacks. The joint harvest did not end up taking place, since the Islamic Movement was strong in the Nablus area, and they didn’t want Jews going into the villages.Read More